This week we once again honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. There is so much to recognize and celebrate in the leadership he showed and the example he set.
In San Diego, activities will include our 36th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade, projects at the Mount Hope Community Garden, an Interfaith Service at Balboa Park, and Feeding America San Diego.
As always, and befitting the memory of Dr. King, many events will again center around service. I will once again be joining the Human Rights Campaign as they collect and assemble donations to help LGBT homeless youth. HRC will use the donations to create life-sustaining care packages for distribution to young people in distress.
As someone who is committed to ending homelessness, increasing affordable housing, and ensuring that everyone has a safe and decent place to live, I believe this month marks the 50th anniversary of one of Dr. King’s most important legacies.
In January 1966, Dr. King and his family moved to Chicago, into a slum in the North Lawndale community.
Dr. King’s move had three goals: to launch the "Chicago Campaign" to focus on racism as a national issue, not just limited to the South; to show the often horrible living conditions of many African Americans in the urban north; and to show how segregated housing unfairly affected African Americans.
Dr. King lived in North Lawndale for six months. While there, he led several marches and demonstrations in support of open housing.
At one event, the marchers were pelted with bottles, rocks and firecrackers. One rock hit Dr. King in the head, knocking him to the ground. He said the hate was as bad as anything he’d seen in the South.
But he persevered. And he won an accord with bankers and the City of Chicago that he called ”the most signiﬁcant program ever conceived to make open housing a reality.” He also said that it was ”the ﬁrst step in a 1,000-mile journey.”
Sometimes, to those of us working on housing issues today, it still looks like a million mile journey.
More and more cities around California are facing an affordable housing crisis. We have 6 of the nation’s top 10 least affordable places to live. We have four of the top 10 cities with the nation’s highest rents. We have declining home ownership.
We have more renters paying a burdensome percentage of their income just to keep up with their monthly payments. And too many African-Americans and members of other minority communities still endure substandard housing and neighborhoods bereft of any sense of environmental justice.
So as we celebrate, remember and serve this weekend, the cause Dr. King brought into focus with his move 50 years ago continues. And like him, we must persevere until a safe, affordable home is recognized as a civil right for all Americans.
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